Gargano Peninsula on your own - practical information and the cost estimate
Every year, Italy is visited by around 20 million tourists. Most of them come in the summer and in the winter, but the seasons in between are also gaining popularity, mainly among those who prefer to stay away from the crowds or among those with a smaller budget. Generally speaking, holidays in Italy are not the cheapest, but you can organize a several-day trip at a reasonable price, all thanks to cheap plane tickets and proper planning of expenses.
If you are thinking about staycation on your own on the Gargano Peninsula, but you don’t know where to start, the following cost estimate will certainly help you. I present step by step how I’ve planned my stay and how much did it cost me. My best friend and I flew to Gargano at the end of August, which is still in the highest holiday season. Fortunately, there were definitely fewer tourists, but the prices were still high. After all, we managed not to spend too much and spend the last holiday weekend in a wonderful Italian style.
1. How to book the cheapest flights?
Planning a vacation on the Gargano peninsula, you should start by looking for cheap flight tickets first, because it will be one of the larger one-time costs to which you can easier adapt other expenses. The more flexibility you have in choosing a convenient time, the easier it is to find a cheap flight. The nearest airport from Gargano operating among low cost airlines is in Bari, located about 130 km from Manfredonia. On the other hand, we flew to Pescara, which is about 220 km from Manfredonia, but Naples airport could work well too, because it is located also about 220 km from Manfredonia. It is rare that you have so many airport options, so finding tickets at a good price, even in the high season, is not so difficult. However, you must remember to buy them at the right time, preferably between 8 and 4 weeks before the scheduled departure. I bought tickets in mid-July, six weeks before departure.
2. Where to rent a car?
The Gargano Peninsula is easiest and most convenient to explore by car, because public transport doesn’t reach all the hidden and further corners of the peninsula and may also limit you in time. It is best to book the car in advance, because thanks to this you will probably get an attractive price. You can rent a car at the stage of buying plane tickets, but you should always read the regulations carefully, as usually the deposit in such reservations is very high. In Ryanair it was 3.200 euro, which means that the main driver must have such amount on the credit card when picking up the car. If he or she doesn’t have this amount, the rental company will refuse to issue the vehicle and the cost of the reservation will not be refunded. So what can we do if we don't have the resources? We can either book the car on the arrival at the local rental company for example, where they usually don’t require such a high deposit, and sometimes don’t even require a credit card; or we can use other in-between companies. The most important thing to remember is that the credit card must be in the name of the main driver, in other words, the person indicated as the driver must be the credit card’s owner, therefore we cannot, for example, borrow a card from someone else.
I booked the car through Rentalcars.com, which is an intermediary company, and ultimately my direct rental company was SicilyByCars. What does such situation mean? It means that if an accident or damage occurs, I would first have to pay the direct rental company’s account first (here SicilyByCars) and only then apply for a refund from the agent (Rentalcars.com). Risky? A bit yes, but the rental price was very tempting. I also bought additional insurance at Generali, which guaranteed financial assistance in the event of a collision.
I rented a car a month before departure. According to the regulations, the deposit should’ve been 300 euros, but on arrival they only blocked 200 euros on my credit card. The man who served me didn’t know English very well, so I didn’t even ask why it happened ;) I’ve booked the pickup from the airport on Thursday at 22:00, and return of the car on Monday till 17:00 = 4 days. We landed in Pescara before 21:00 and immediately went to the car rental stand. There was no problem to issue the vehicle to us sooner. It is important to be careful with the working hours of the target rental companies. If you have a very late flight, you must make sure that there will be someone who will give you the car. Some companies charge extra fees for picking up the car during non-standard business hours, so make sure you’ve checked that carefully.
When booking a car, I chose: Volkswagen Polo or similar, economical, 5-door, with air conditioning, manual + full insurance + second driver.
3. How to drive in Italy and in Gargano?
On the arrival, it turned out that we got a well-equipped two-year Peugeot 208, 1.4 diesel, which was really comfortable to drive. First of all, it managed on steep and winding streets, but also it didn’t mumble on the highway. We drove from and to the airport through the highway. The section from Pescara to Foggia (A14) costs EUR 12.60. However, the section from Bari to Foggia (A14) costs 20.67 euros, and from Naples to Foggia (A16) 18.48 euros. Foggia is the nearest motorway exit to the Gargano Peninsula. If you want to pay in cash for the highway, the ticket is picked up at the entrance to the highway - you need to drive up to the gate with the money sign or Biglietto inscription on the sign above the gate, and take the ticket which is already halfway out. At the exit on the highway you return the ticket and pay - special vending machines are set up, which are able to give you the rest.
It really pays to cover the distance by highway, because it is much faster and more economical. By the highway there are numerous gas stations and restaurants. Coffee at the petrol station costs 2.00 euros, and a large piece of pizza from the oven costs 3.95 euros.
Driving through the peninsula it feels like a roller coaster: sharp turns, steep cliffs, narrow roads, high fluctuations, large falls and elevations. Tourists drive here very carefully, which can not be said about natives accustomed to this type of road. Try to keep out of the way, because the Italians don’t really care about tearing the car and they will squeeze into even the narrowest streets. The main thing is to be careful and not overestimate your abilities behind the wheel. Such a drive doesn’t have to be stressful, treat it wisely but as fun!
4. Where to buy your travel insurance?
Additional insurance is very important! You should insure your luggage and yourself in case you cause an accident or damage to another person. I bought insurance online in Generali the week before leaving. As I mentioned earlier, I also added special protection for renting a car.
5. Cost estimate.
The exact cost estimate for the entire trip can be found below: